December 10, 2017

I don’t want to go to Mars

Posted

Whoo boy! It looks like we got ourselves a good ol’ space race a-brewin’!

I’m not talking about the Cold War iteration of the U.S. versus the USSR. I’m also not talking about the three-way battle royal in Asia between Japan, China and India (just found out about this the day I wrote this column).

Nope. The real space race is heating up between SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

Their aspirations are admirable. Space travel is something that has piqued society’s curiosity for decades, and truth be told, I’m a little bit jealous I wasn’t alive to witness the televised moon landing. Obviously the event was transcendent. But the way our country seemed to share the experience together, even though everyone was huddled in front of their own TV set, is just one of those amazing moments of unity and shared exultation.

That said, I think the space race CEOs are putting the cart before the horse just a tad bit. And by “tad bit,” I mean “light years.” NASA’s first manned mission to Mars is planned for the 2030s. (As a side note, NASA’s mission overview on its website is fantastic and very informative!) Musk said by the 2060s there could be a million people on Mars.

Cool. But here’s a thought. Let’s shoot for one. And he or she doesn’t even have to live there. Let’s let them take one small step and giant leap on Mars before we break red ground on a condominium or amusement park.

It is possible, I guess, that I’m a little biased against Mars. While we have glamorized space travel in society, any movie I’ve ever seen set on Mars, specifically, has made it look, for lack of a better word, terrible.

During college I had a class titled “John Carpenter Films.” Take a moment to let that sink in as either an indictment regarding my work ethic during my formative college years or the curriculum offerings at Central Michigan University. OK. Moving on.

One of the films we watched was called “Ghosts of Mars.” Here I will briefly don my film critic hat. On the thumbs up or down scale, I give it a “Two thumbs jabbed into my eyeballs so I don’t have to watch this horrendous waste of a film reel.” That said, in the movie, ancient spirits of Martian civilization begin to possess human bodies and make them do evil things.

Is this likely to happen? Who knows? Surely not Elon Musk or Dennis Muilenburg.

Let’s not forget about “Total Recall.” Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This doesn’t make Mars look bad! What about that chick with three —”

I’m going to stop you there. My counterpoint is the climactic image of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eyes getting sucked out of his head by the oxygen-lacking Mars atmosphere. I don’t want that to happen to me, and you shouldn’t either.

My third reference is “The Martian.” I enjoyed this movie, actually. Know why? Because Matt Damon shows us the power of the human spirit can endure so much — even the horrors of Mars, which the movie shows are rather plentiful. It’s impossible not to be overjoyed when he finally gets rescued and comes home, because Mars is a vast, lifeless dump.

Maybe in time, my opinion will change. Perhaps NASA’s mission will reveal that Mars has great potential for habitation and tourism. I hope so! This would be monumental! So many problems could be solved (there’s a column for another week).

But until we get some boots on the ground, we won’t know. So let’s focus our energy on something a little more realistic — a moon colony.

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